Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Avengers Assemble #1 review

The movie's not out yet, but here's the comic tie-in. The idea is that this book features the Avengers seen in the film, but in the regular Marvel continuity. So while there's a crowd shot featuring the likes of Wolverine, Spidey and Spider-Woman, the focus is on Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. The green Hulk has his own scene and will presumably join the other heroes soon enough.

The story itself sees the organisation of a new version of villain gang The Zodiac. Soon Aquarius and Taurus are gathering maguffins, bringing them into conflict with our heroes in separate vignettes. Hulk versus a chap made of water makes for a busy, if daft, scene - where's the threat? A bunch of military men get excited and fire stuff, but Hulk vs tapwater, really? HULK SPLASH! The big, scary man-bull that is Taurus make for a more credible opponent, a magical base making him effective against the Avengers' biggest guns.

Credit to writer Brian Michael Bendis for giving us a more action-packed comic than is his habit. His trademark banter works well, with the exception of a needlessly crude request from Clint to Natasha. The idea that this is regular Marvel continuity doesn't quite convince - the Zodiac is set up as if they're the first iteration, Hawkeye and Natasha forget that he was dead awhile back, Aquarius thought Hulk was a myth - but I can live with it. The vibe is close enough to both the comic book and film versions to work.

My favourite dialogue scene is the opening speech from Cancer, a nicely measured call to rally. It's not as snappy as 'Avengers Assemble' but does the job with eloquence.

On the art side, penciller Mark Bagley and inker Danny Miki provide explosive layouts, with the two fight scenes looking great on the page. They don't bother trying for likenesses of the actors (or more likely, aren't allowed to), but God bless Bagley for giving Thor his helmet! The base costumes of the Zodiac members are unprepossessing, but get more interesting as they use their powers.

The artwork benefits greatly from having the superb Paul Mounts as colourist, while Clayton Cowles has a ball with sound effects.

Bagley's cover isn't brilliant, it looks as if the Avengers are trying to balance on some out-of-shot beachball. Black Widow, especially, looks about to fall flat on her face.

Overall, though, this is a decent Avengers book, with a pleasingly old-school feel. I can't see myself coming back next month because the mix of characters isn't my favourite, but I expect Marvel will get a dozen or so issues out of the tie-in. Let's just hope the marketing bods have some grand plan to get this under the noses of fans of the movie who would welcome a jumping-on point. Spinner racks in cinemas? Ads with comic shop addresses on the back of tickets? It's not rocket science, is it?

While there are no credits here for the creators of the various characters, Bryan Hitch gets a nod on the title page for designing Hawkeye's costume. It made me laugh, but in a sad way.

16 comments:

  1. God, not another Avengers comic! What is this, the fifteenth?!? This has all the hallmarks of a Marvel Adventures title, wiht all its cute witticisms and sly nods to continuity.
    I like the Zodiac - always have, always will, ever since their vaunted SHIELD days - but these costumes are bad! Still, I wish theyd turn up in the regular books.

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    1. I'd love to see a proper Zodiac assault too, but am happy to wait until we get a proper Avengers book.

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  2. And OH another thing Mark Bagleys so-called artwork...it never ceases to annoy me, his ever-angry faces, his contorted bodies that have the tiniest feet; he succeeded in making Donna Troy in JLA look ugly which I always thought was impossible to do...really not my cup of tea.,,,...

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    1. He does seem to make all the faces seem nipped.

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  3. Cute witticisms and sly nods to continuity sound great! Despite Bendis' decompressed style, I like New Avengers and Moon Knight so I'll try this title. Never been crazy about Bagley, though. He's competent but a little dull.

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    1. I'd like to see Bagley with inkers who really embellish, such as Akin and Garvey of Rom fame. Sadly, I think they left the industry.

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  4. Being a big Avengers fan, I have to admit that it's the first time since Bendis took over the franchise that an Avengers book feels like an Avengers book.
    Not the greatest start, but much more enjoyable than Avengers has been with that irritating HAMMER storyline.

    It didn't feel like it was a first appearance of the Zodiac, even though it's certainly the first appearance of THIS version; my favourite version still is the Defenders android version drawn by Giffen and Royer all those years ago, but at least, this new version seems a bit different.

    And I loved the rude banter between Clint and Natasha. ;-)

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    1. That Defenders story remains the pinnacle of Zodiac attacks.

      And, dirty. DIRTY boy!

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    2. And how's the Oral History of the Avengers? Sadly, it's not what it sounds like.

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  5. I'm primarily a DC fan but grew up reading mostly Marvel. Everytime I see Wolverine in the Avengers I'm glad I'm sticking with DC. It just doesn't fit to me, and it's going to be even more strange with the big rumble with the X-men coming up.

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  6. Yeah I'm with Mr Whiskas - I just can't do Wolverine as an Avenger. Still, spinner racks in movie theatres - that should be done!! If Marvel or DC miss their opportunities to catch fans leaving theatres this year there will be no excuses!

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  7. I'm with you both. Beast as an Avenger was great, because there was no X-Men when he joined, and he'd changed, but Wolverine? Forced in due to his 'brand' and utterly out of place.

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    1. And now I see Storm is joining the Avengers. This kind of thing makes X-men vs. Avengers fairly absurd in my opinion...

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    2. I think she's been in the Brian Bendis Avengers a few months. So won't have done anything yet.

      But yes, Avengers vs X-Men when the former is full of the latter and the latter is split into two factions? Not much sense there.

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  8. Does anyone know if Marvel has ever really responded to the continuity issue? I started reading comics in the early 80s and back then Marvel would reference past storylines and appearances with footnotes in the current issues. Captain America for example had his own book, but the Avengers would make appearances. Of course the time frame did not always work but at least Marvel made an attempt. Now with Wolverine and Spider Man at one point appearing in two different Avengers teams, as well as separate membership in the FF and the X Men, Marvel sends a message in my opinion of laziness. I'm curious what other people think.

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  9. When I've seen the continuity issue referenced it's usually just a matter of a lame wink ie 'yes, we know Logan can't possibly be on so many teams, and now Spidey's doing the same thing'. It makes no sense.

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